TORONTO – Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled Canadian radio waves with hot attitudes on the topics of the day for decades, has died at 85

“He’s been a mentor to many, many people in the business, and I know that with his death he left a hole in many people’s hearts,” she said over the phone from Nova Scotia

The veteran broadcaster was a familiar voice to radio listeners who had prepared for its brand launch: “This is what Dick Smyth looks like this morning”

His career has spanned a number of influential posts including CKLW-AM in Windsor, Ont when it was known as “The Big 8” and 1050 CHUM in Toronto

And his face was familiar to viewers in the early days of Citytv’s newscasts, where he made apologetic and lively opinions on political leaders, the economy and local issues

“He could eviscerate; he could be nice. He could make you think; He could make you angry, ”said George Gordon, a friend and colleague of CHUM

“If you got into a conversation with him, he didn’t lack opinion, and if you wanted to argue with him, you’d better do your homework””

Those traits came into their own, Gordon said, and they translated beautifully on the radio, where Smyth became a bridge between news and fiery editorials – an authoritative voice that sounded louder than most

Originally from Montreal, Smyth was fascinated by radio programs in his youth This led him to join a children’s theater group that performed live in the air.Usually, he played the giants and ogres, he once recalled

The experience helped him land his first official radio concert on a station in Cornwall, Ont, where he met his wife

But it was rented from the legendary Windsor station “The Big 8”, named after its powerful 50000 watt signal at 800 on the AM dial which gave Smyth a serious opportunity to build its reputation as a preeminent morning news station, Reporter

When the 1967 Detroit riots were sparked by a police raid on an illegal after-hours club for black Americans, Smyth was one of the few Canadian reporters on the ground

As he ventured across the border into Windsor, his reports captured the fear of Motor City as martial law went into effect, with each update featuring vivid descriptions of the scene and colorful interviews with locals

The news has earned a lot of credit. Smyth was the first Canadian to receive the International Award from the Radio Television News Directors Association

It set the stage for the following years: He stayed at Windsor Station until 1969 when he joined Toronto’s CHUM as news director. His other outposts included CFTR-AM and 680 News

Over the years, Smyth has become increasingly known to the public for his skills as a conservative commentator and one of the most recognizable figures on Canadian news radio

“I was always flattered when someone said they were sitting in a parking lot because they wanted to hear my comment,” he said in a 2012 interview on RadioViz’s YouTube channel

“Even if they were late for work, they would be sitting in a car and listening I think that’s a big compliment”

Smyth had many critics, however, as his controversial opinions were often divisive and sometimes even viewed as hateful

Following Canada’s first large-scale lesbian and gay equality demonstration on Parliament Hill in 1971, Smyth condemned the CHUM radio waves, calling the marching people “militant alcoholics, militant lepers, or militant lunatics.” The words stung many in the gay community who felt they were playing with suggestions from the time LGBTQ people were mentally ill

Brian Waite, founding member of Toronto Gay Action, appeared a few days after Smyth’s comment on CHUM, calling him “vengeful” and “bigoted” for “sharing the same views that produced the worst epochs of oppression and brutality “in human history”

Smyth would go against the gay community so many times that the historical Archives Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada called him an “anti-gay news editor”

In 1996, a complaint was filed with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council over comments it made on 680 messages about Jewish mothers some listeners considered anti-Semitic The CBSC scolded Smyth, saying he violated Canadian broadcasting standards, and both he and one of the station managers apologized on the air

Smyth found a different audience on television in the early 1980s when he was a frequent contributor to Citytv’s CityPulse newscast

His small screen persona built on his signature radio voice by exposing the audience to the expressive physical theaters he became known for in the newsroom early radio days comes

Smyth retired from full-time broadcasting in 1997, a decision he made after suffering from severe depression

More recently, Smyth has been reflecting on the role of traditional broadcast news networks in a media market that had largely moved into the digital world

“I think of Jack Dennett, the late Gordon Sinclair, people who have a flair, a personality even brought an opinion with you. You didn’t want to miss it in the morning ”

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Dick Smyth

World News – CA – Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro for news radio commentary, dies at the age of 85